Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Getting a Handle on Things

Currently Reading: The Middlesteins

Everyone deals with life's dilemas in their own way.  Sometimes these coping mechanisms are constructive and yet others are so destructive that they bring their own set of problems with them.  I am currently working my way through The Middlesteins where the matriarch of this family has caused all its members to reevaluate their lives and attempt to make amends of a sort.

Edie is extremely obese.  She eats and eats and eats, never actually filling up.  Why does she eat?  It is a source of comfort emotionally.  Something she can rely on day in and day out.  Her daughter drinks too much and her son can only find solace in his work.  Edie's husband, Richard, leaves her out of frustration for lacking the ability to convince her that her life is about to be cut short.  Faced with these two stubborn in laws, their son's wife takes it upon herself to right all wrongs, formulating a diet and exercise plan for Edie and callously revoking grandchild visitation privileges from Richard.  As her plan progresses, the family finds themselves in even more heady circumstances where no one emerges the victor.

I began reading this novel after finishing up The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry where Harold himself was engaged in his own method of coping over the loss of his son.  He is a bit opposite of Edie in that his solution comes in the form of walking from one end of England to the other, stopping only when absolutely necessary and denying himself many of life's most basic needs.  Harold's wife is baffled by his actions and finds herself forced outside of his pain, observing from a distance through news reports and brief postcards.  Harold becomes a small celebrity across the country, unwittingly inspiring others to walk along with him on the journey of self-evaluation and forgiveness.  Why is Harold walking in the first place?  Well because he received a letter from an old friend who once saved him from himself.  This friend is dying of cancer, but wanted to take one last moment to thank Harold for his kindness in the past.  Rather than simply posting a letter in return, Harold uses this occasion as an opportunity to reevaluate his life and come to terms with the aforementioned death experienced in his family.

These two novels both speak to the tenuous nature of life and how important it is to not only live each day to its fullest, but to appreciate the important relationships in one's life as well.  This seems to be a common theme amongst many books and while reading, it caused me to pause and consider the reason as to why this is.  Maybe it is because family and drama are all things that people can relate to.  Who hasn't ever found themselves at a crossroads at some point in their life, hoping to finally figure out something that can help make sense of things?  Even just dealing with the little things occurring in our lives each day requires some sort of system.  Some source of comfort in the storm.  So be it food or walking or routines, they can't all be bad, right?

Speaking of families and all that, I wanted to pass along a couple of other recs for some good reads which just happen to be a bit lighter than the ones I usually write about.  The Spellman books by Lisa Lutz are a hilarious series relating the lives and times of a family of private detectives.  I highly recommended looking them up whenever you are in need of an escape from your everyday woes.  Reading fun books, another coping strategies.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Books Are Awesome

Currently Reading: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Pg 91: "Books used to be pretty high-tech, back in the day. Not anymore."

How fitting is it that I end my oh too long blogging hiatus with a book about books!  I have been eagerly waiting for this one to come up in my library request queue and thankfully was not disappointed in the least.  Mr. Penumbra owns a quaint bookshop in San Francisco.  Clay, a young unemployed nerd finds himself outside the store observing its blessed help wanted sign.  After entering, Mr. Penumbra himself asks Clay about a book he loves and after giving a truthful answer about his childhood favorite and passing the "ladder test", Clay becomes the new night clerk at the mysterious emporium.

After a few weeks of lonely nights spent "borrowing" wifi from a neighboring business and staring at the cavernous ceilings, Clay discovers that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is not so much a store as it is a front for a highly secretive group of bibliophiles searching out answers to a century long mystery put forth by its founder.  The Unbroken Spine association has members all over the globe all slowly seeking the same truths yet in very different places.  Their ranks include "novices", "unbound" and finally, those who are furthest along on their journey, "bound" (like a book, get it?  Hee hee).  Clay is confused by their reluctance to try some more modern decoding techniques and takes it upon himself to bring them into the 21st century employing not only his own limited programming skills but those of his Googler girlfriend as well, not to mention a fun loving benefactor in the form of an old friend and a set maker from ILM who just happens to be his roommate.  The motley crew, along with Penumbra himself set forth to unlock the society's secrets and eventually discover a few intriguing things about themselves as well.  The enlightening combination of new meets old makes for an engaging story and the references to great literary masters and luminaries from the present day as well solidify the awesomeness that is this book.

One of the things that Clay and his friends find out is something that I too have come across in my readings.  Our currently lives often mirror those found between book jackets.  This book was a timely one for me because I recently returned from a weeklong trek to California which culminated with a conference in Clay's place of residence, San Francisco.  I loved being able to identify the locations described in the book as well as commiserate with the characters in the pitfalls and problems found throughout the city.

Also appropriate to my predicament was the idea of old technology being melded with new advancements.  Everyone always asks me why I don't have a kindle or other ebook reader.  A large part of it is the inaccessibility of ebooks through library loan programs, but more than that, it is my love for feeling the actual weight of a book in my hands and going through the actions of turning pages, going forward and backwards at my leisure.  Still, I am a huge fan of moving forward technologically and so love the idea of incorporating the two and using whatever tool works to solve the problem.

Another aspect of Robin Sloan's novel that struck home was the incorporation of Google and all its awesome programs.  As anyone who knows me can say, I am a bit obsessed with Google at the moment.  Take this blog for example.  Who hosts Blogger?  Why that would be Google of course.  Where did many of you get notification of this post?  Through Google+ or via your gmail account.  I use a Chromebook for work and have their browser set as the default on all my devices.  My booklist and other pertinent documents live on my Google Drive and my upcoming appointments, well they are reminded to me through my Google calendar.  So I suppose I was a bit jealous of Clay's girl Kat who has been working at Google for a few years and utilizes some of their amazing technology and programs to break the code and uncover the secrets of the Unbroken Spine.  So cool!!  OK.  Enough of the overenthusiastic lauding.  I'm off to go check my gmail and do a Google image search for the font Gerritszoon (which plays a prominent role in this tale).  Until next time, happy Googling!  Oops!  I meant reading! :P